“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington
To see the entire quote, click here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A bastion of faith set in stone for all time

And speaking of great English architectural feats... John and Kathy of casa dolce sent us this fabulous photo of the gothic Lincoln Cathedral in Lincolnshire. Built some 900 years ago, the massive structure can be seen from miles away, as the surrounding countryside is, conversely, quite flat. Read Kathy's post about their "daytripping" experience here.
Have a great photo of England? Email it to us and we'll link back to you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No punt intended

We walked towards the river Cam and crossed a small, hump-backed bridge. Beneath it were several young men in straw boaters with neckties swung around their waists to hold up their white flannel trousers. These would-be tour guides, local students, playfully accosted us as we passed by, extolling the virtues of viewing the River Cam from the inside of a punt. Clutching and jerking poles around, especially in public, was not my cup of tea. Punting was not for the uncoordinated, the inexperienced, or indeed, for me. Much better to watch. And so we did, from a hotel conveniently located just over the bridge.
The hotel had a lovely terrace and verandah, and from there we happily nibbled toast, slurped tea, and gazed upon the tranquil river traffic and the ancient spires of Cambridge. A little later, we ambled back over the Cam and made our slow progress across a large lawn, towards those hallowed halls of academe. Lew prepared for the march with all the resolve and determination of Scott returning from the South Pole.

Monday, July 27, 2009

In the path of famous footfalls

The streets surrounding the colleges gave way to warren-like passageways filled with cobblestone, bottle glass, and wrought iron work. We spotted the occasional gas lamp and flower baskets that dripped with pansies and geraniums. Dark and mysterious, the pedestrian byways of Cambridge were inviting, but where did they lead? Cambridge was indeed a town to wander. These were the same streets and turnings that Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, and Charles Darwin ambled down. Where would they lead?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free advice is worth...

“Don’t go to Cambridge in the winter! Or even early spring. Ghastly.” A friend who had gone to Cambridge tried to put me wise. “The wind comes howling down across the fens, the land is completely flat. No protection. Bitterly cold. Winter. Even early spring. As I said, ghastly.” He had shaken his head, looking every inch like a wet bulldog, and offered no further explanation. We went there anyway, hoping the early May weather would turn favorably warm. My friend had been right, the approach to Cambridge was flat. Reminiscent of approaching Dayton, Ohio! Suddenly, it’s there. And so were we.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No time to chew our cud!

Prodigal Wife is hosting tomorrow's Skywatch Friday (how cool is that?), so it seemed a good time to introduce everyone to her new photo blog, A Slide of Life, where's she's sharing some of the fabulous photos she's taken on her many travels.
Of course, I exerted some of that mannish charm everyone's talking about this week to save her pictures of England for us--and you've already seen quite a few here--like this peaceful shot of Cambridge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lunch in Long Melford

We walked past the village green, framed by a couple of pubs, and stopped to get our bearings. On closer inspection, one of the pubs was not a pub at all, having been completely converted into an interesting looking restaurant. Inside, the decor was bright blues and yellows, and looked very Mediterranean. Surprisingly, the food was English and good. I had a succulent rack of lamb and a trendy salad of tender young leafy things that, left to grow, would turn into stinging nettles and foul-smelling weeds. Frances had a veal chop and spinach. Kate had her normal one-course meal of formula. If the weather had been better we might have lingered around the antique shops, but it was getting cold and we were still pretty damp from the previous downpour. We decided to head home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I've had enough!

When we came outside into the insipid daylight, I looked up. Clouds, I noticed, were still gathering like a mighty armada of gray battleships waiting to attack once more. We started to look for somewhere to eat. Quickly. Across the street, we saw another large stately home, but I had seen enough for one morning. Even Frances did not press me to see more.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Back to windy Reculver...

“It can get worse than this! No question!”
We had stopped by the abbey to talk to a cyclist taking a breather and, like us, seeking a little protection from the elements. He showed us the winding path that stretched around the ancient fortifications along the top of the cliff, towards Whitstable in one direction, Margate in the other.
“Are you are visitor?” I asked.
“No, no, I live here. Retired.” He waved his paw into the wind.
Retired or not, with his weather-beaten face divided by lemon specs, Spandex top and pants, and huge calves narrowing to tiny ankles, I could tell he was a serious biker.
“The going’s mostly flat, once you get up here. Got to watch for the wind, though!”
He waved, then rode off into the wind, prudently veering away from the cliff’s edge.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A "guest" from across the pond

Cousins Kevin and Maxine of The Repairman Cometh took us at our word and raised a glass (or two) when they heard the news about the book. We laughed so hard at Kevin's note we decided to share it here (well, most of it), our first "guest blogger," so to speak.

I've poked around in the piggy bank with my knife and dug out some coppers so I can pre-order my hot-off-the-press copy of A Yank Back to England! Well done--the longest book I ever wrote was a thousand lines at school. Delivery is estimated 8th Feb in UK, do tell the publicist to get out the ol'caxton press and bang out some early copies...
We've just recently returned from a two-week holiday caravan rally in the Vendee, France. A long drive but well worth it. We've flogged our holiday stories to death but have heard there's some new victims across the pond... My French is much improved: "Un beer pretty darn quick'o!"
Lots of love to all (said in my deep straight voice),
Kev & Max

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Prodigal Tourist finds a home

You may have heard, the Prodigal household is celebrating--we've found a publisher for my book about my rediscovery of my old home! It's to be called A Yank Back to England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns and will be out in December in Washington, everywhere else in January.
We were holding off on the happy news (not on the celebrating, as you can see from the pic) until the website was ready, but we got scooped by our friend Melissa at Smitten by Britain , who already put the book in her Amazon store! (You are naughty, and we love you for it!) so... here we are! Site-less but thrilled! Until we're ready, we will link to Amazon on the side column (US, UK, Canada, & Europe) for anyone who wants to take advantage of the low pre-order price. (And tar very much!)
For those of you who are unsure, or new to the blog, we do have a wonderful testimonial from Pulitzer-prize winning critic Michael Dirda, who read the mss and wrote:

“Half memoir, half travel book, A Yank Back to England never stints the reader: Here is England seen entire, from inside out, from bottom to top, as Denis Lipman returns from America to his working-class family home in blighted Dagenham. From there he, his young American wife, and his cockney Mum and Dad embark on a series of funny, touching, madcap and even surreal adventures as they visit celebrated landmarks and holiday spots in England—as well as a good many pubs. The result is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”

Couldn't ask for a better quote from a wonderful critic and author. Now one more thing: I want to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged us over the otherwise-bleak last few months--reading your comments and emails has been most wonderful and cheering, and I mean this most sincerely.
So celebrate with us! Lift a glass to A Yank Back to England, to me, and to the long-suffering Prodigal Wife!
Denis (a.k.a., The Prodigal Tourist)

Monday, July 13, 2009

A guiding light at the edge of empire

Reculver Fort stood atop a grassy, wind-blown headland, cobbled together from the remains of Regulbium, the Roman watchtower, and an old Saxon abbey. Christian and pagan ruins occupied the same site, still holding their own, sharing a similar aspect and an equal amount of respect. From a distance the Roman part of the edifice appeared stooped, near crumbling. But up close the fort looked like the head of a beast rising up from the land, strong and permanent. Gusts blew through the grass, first revealing then concealing the fort’s bone-colored foundations. Reculver was originally built by the Romans to monitor shipping and protect the inlaid channels and waterways that veined this part of Thanet. A thousand years later, single mast ships dipped their sails as they passed, acknowledging Reculver as a beacon and trusted landmark. Now, two thousand years on, it was protecting the three of us from strong broadsides of wind blown from the sea.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oh, what a lovely pier!

The talented Jo at Urban Cynic sent us this dramatic photo of the Palace Pier in "London by the Sea," the famous seaside resort town of Brighton. This is the pier Richard Attenborough used as a liefmotif in his wonderful adapation of Joan Littlewood's "Oh, What a Lovely War," starring my old friend Victor Spinetti. This gathering, almost ominous sky would have fit in perfectly!
Want to share a photo of England? Email us!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kate avoids licensing laws

We were obviously expected to take the pathway to the cathedral, but its cobbles, like endless rows of tortoises pressed together, were huge and quite impractical for a stroller. We set out across the grass. Along one side were a few ancient inns, originally built for overnight pilgrims and now catering to “day trippers” – sightseers like us – and locals. We stopped by one.
“Sorry, can’t let her in,” the landlord said, pointing to Kate.
“It’s okay, she doesn’t drink,” I said, trying for humor. “Well, nothing you would sell, anyway.”
“Licensing laws,” the landlord said, shrugging. “What can you do?” He sighed and turned away.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and sitting at one of the outdoor picnic tables was no punishment. Even so, Kate climbed on our bench and poked her smiling face through the ground floor window, much to the amusement of the patrons inside and mild consternation of the landlord.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Teaching Frances Cockney rhyming slang

“I’m just going up the apples and pears,” said Lew, without explanation.
Frances looked puzzled. Lew pointed to me for the answer.
“You know, Cockney rhyming slang. He gets into it sometimes,” I said, still a bit morose.
“Oh, apples and pears, stairs – I got it.”
“She’s got it,” said Lew, chuckling to himself as he mounted the stairs.
“Where you off to then?” I asked.
“Just got to see a man about a dog.”
“A man about a dog?” asked Frances.
I pointed to the closing toilet door. Frances asked what was the rhyme in “man about a dog.” I told her, I did not have a clue. My old man and his expressions! But at least that one had caught me smiling again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A little cottage in the country...

Our bloggy friend Melissa at Smitten by Britain sent us this beautiful (and award-winning!) photo of Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Parts of this fabulous building are apparently pre-15th century, though of course many changes and improvements have been made over the years, including the addition of fireplaces in the 16th century. A far cry from our tiny thatched cottage in Rattlesden, though the two are probably contemporary!
Email us your best shot of England! If we post it, we'll link back of course. Thanks Melissa!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Our cast of characters

We've gone through all our pictures from our various journeys to Blighty, and came across only one with all of our "regulars." We thought you might enjoy putting faces to the stories, so we decided to post it here. In shoes, from left to right, are Lew (Dad), Frances (Prodigal Wife), Denis (TPT), and Jessie (Mum). The little one is Kate (Prodigal Daughter?) at six months or so. The photo was taken in front of my brother Tony's house, in Chelmsford, the county town of Essex. Not much to see there, don't stopover!